Nowadays, millions of people turn to online dating websites to find companionship and romance. Why not, right? The idea and convenience of meeting your soul mate on the internet is alluring to all different demographics. Unfortunately, the widespread use and popularity of these social sites attracts criminals along with everyone else. Scammers now troll dating sites to make fast money by preying on the vulnerability of those looking for love. The best way to protect yourself and others is to understand how these online dating scams work and recognize the signs early.
The Romance Scam
A romance scammer creates a fake profile on legitimate dating sites and social networks. This individual uses bogus pictures and personal information to play on emotional triggers and create a quick bond with his/her victim. The relationship progresses quickly because the scammer feigns genuine interest and presents himself/herself as a thoughtful, loving person looking for a soul mate. In a relatively short period of time, the scammer will ask that the relationship move away from the website to phone, email or instant message communication. The scammer will often weave a believable story about traveling or living overseas. Ultimately, once trust is gained, the scammer will ask for financial assistance. He/she could ask for help cashing a check, sending a package, covering travel expenses, paying a bill or bailing someone out of jail. Victims of the romance scam might not only have money stolen from them, but also unknowingly participate in money laundering or shipping stolen merchandise.
Warning Signs for Fraudulent Activity
The person you meet online may only be interested in scamming you if he or she:
Quickly professes strong feelings of love.
Pressures you to leave the website you met through and use more personal forms of communication.
Has a picture that looks like it could be from a magazine.
Claims to be from the United States, but is traveling or working overseas.
Plans to visit you, but never does due to an emergency or tragic event.
Asks for money, favors, gifts, or your bank account details and credit card information.
Becomes more persistent or desperate if you do not comply with his/her requests immediately.
United Heritage Credit Union’s goal is to educate its members about current scams to help protect them from fraud and identity theft. Awareness is the best defense for preventing this type of crime. If you believe you are a victim of an online scam or have questions regarding suspicious account activity, please contact United Heritage at 512.435.4545
You can also file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
, which accepts online internet crime complaints from either the actual victim or from a third party to the complainant. Learn more about IC3 here